Tuk to the Road

The trials and tukulations of Jo, Ants and Ting Tong the tuk tuk and our three-wheeled odyssey from Bangkok to Brighton...in aid of the mental health charity Mind. For more information please see www.tuktotheroad.com

Friday, September 22, 2006

Reflections on being back


I just had to write this for www.gapyear.com so I thought I'd wack it on the blog too.... Ants

Coming home....

It seems like only yesterday that I was driving through Russia, wondering what life was going to be like once Jo and I had completed our mission of driving a tuk tuk all the way from Bangkok to Brighton. Doing any sort of expedition is so exhilarating, so different and so totally consuming that coming back to reality is never going to easy, and the closer we got to home, the more I knew that life after tukking was not going to be an easy ride.

We all know that post-exam feeling; you've been focusing on something for weeks, unable to see beyond that final wonderful moment when you walk out of the exam room for the last time. You celebrate wildly, then the Void appears. What next you wonder? Arriving in Brighton three weeks ago was akin to walking out of that exam room, reaching that point which always seemed so far away. As we rounded the corner into Bartholomew Square a crowd of friends, family, supporters and press surged toward us, clapping, waving, shouting. It was a fantastic moment. Yet at the same time it was very surreal, and for the rest of that day Jo and I drifted around in a dreamland, unable to grasp that we had actually done it. After 14 weeks on the road we'd made it home and completed a journey that so many people had doubted we could do. The wild celebrations lasted well into the early hours of the next morning and the next week was a blur of interviews, phonecalls and 'How was the trip?' questions. The surrealness continued all that week, neither of us able to get our heads round being back. Already those long days in China seemed like another world, like they had happened to someone else.

Moreover, everything at home seemed so alien. I remember seeing a familiar looking man in the paper the day we got back and taking a good 20 seconds to realise it was David Cameron. I didn't know any of the songs blaring out of Radio 1, I hadn't heard of the new Almodovar film everyone was raving about or the band that had won The Mercury Music prize, and in my 16 weeks absence three of my friends had got pregnant.

Worst of all was having to drive a normal car again. Having spent 14 weeks tukking across the globe in a three-wheeler I had to rediscover the joys of right hand drive and a normal gear stick. My first four wheeled foray was in my mother's Saab. Within one journey I stalled several times and nudged a wall in a multi-storey car park; I felt like a 17 year old who'd never driven before. Thank goodness after three weeks I am now driving normally again and no longer a hazard to other road users.

Yet the hardest thing I have found about coming back is not really knowing what to do next. I would recommend anyone considering a trip like this to have a solid plan in place for their return: know where you are going to be living and have a firm idea of what you are going to do to fill the post-expedition void. Many people speak of falling into depression when they return from such epic adventures, and I can understand why. Having a positive idea of what you want to do when you return is a good way of avoiding this. Also, try and take some time out to reflect on what you have done, where you have been and all the incredible experiences you have had. Jo and I saw and learnt so much on our tukathon that I think I will be digesting it for years to come. However hard it has been coming back I keep reminding myself of how lucky I have been to have seen the world from three-wheels, when so many of the people we met along the way have hardly enough money to feed and clothe themselves. Its easy to forget, in our cosy Western World, how lucky we are to have what we do and doing this trip has made me realise that more than ever. It is hard coming back, and reality has been hard to swallow but in the bigger picture these are minor details. Tukking across 12 countries in 14 weeks was the best thing I have ever done and although the post-tukking twilight zone is a little gloomy, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.


Blogger pip said...

Who are these "so many people" that doubted you?
I never doubted you for even a single moment. I knew you would do it even if you had to push TT!
I am so proud of you - two very special girls ( or should that be three? ).

1:07 PM  
Blogger Ting Tong said...

Dear Mr.Ant - I know exactly how you feel 'cos I feel the same. I don't know what is going to happen to me now and even though the sun has been shining I feel gloomy shut up in here with those smelly ferrets. One of them tried to scale my protective wooden barrier and sneered at me over the top - I was very scared.
I think it is a gloomy time of year. The days are getting shorter and it seems dark for ages at night. I want to come and see you but I can't go anywhere until Mr. Anuwat sends my spares and I have been mended. Then it will be cold, which makes me cough and splutter. I am not very happy. I miss the challenge of the open road and don't quite understand why we had to stop. Please come and take me OUT! I will cheer you up and behave very well.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Come down to Brighton for some Ting Tong action and some hugs Mr. Ant! xxx

6:04 PM  
Blogger heid_honcho said...

get writing your travelogue - i'm sure it would sell well.

and is there a documentary in the works?

2:31 PM  
Blogger heid_honcho said...

oh, and cheer up.

what the 2 of you did was pretty remarkable. feel lucky

2:32 PM  
Blogger heid_honcho said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:32 PM  
Blogger 1-wheel bus said...

On one level, I can comprehend what the two/three of you did, as a friend from college and I did a couple of cross-continent treks during our Spring Breaks.

On another level, I cannot. Bob and I travelled maybe 1,000 miles one way the one year, 2,500 one way the next, but those trips were seven, maybe 10 or 12 days. You were out there most of four months!

You are very right -- trips like that change you. It's one thing to look at a map and see that so-and-so distant city is there... but to actually get in a vehicle (with however many wheels!) on your own time and inclination, and with your own money, and go there...
It's not something you can describe; you just have to experience it; and flying doesn't count.

Nine cheers! (3 apiece)
Stu in Pittsburgh

5:09 PM  
Blogger tuktotheroad said...

Thanks for comments guys. Yes Heid, I do feel VERY lucky, I know that what we have just done is a once in a lifetime thing.

Working on the book at the moment, and doco being edited in Jan / Feb, will keep you posted. If any of you want another weird travel blog to follow my friends are cycling back from China for their honeymoon...see www.bumblingalong.com. Funny stuff.

Keep reading....and hope to see you all at the RGS talk on December 12.

2:40 AM  
Blogger bullyboys said...

What a rude pink TT! just because it can't get out of it's cage with three wheels it doesn't appreciate the efforts of four footed people to climb all the way up with a nice friendly smile of welcome. As for smell...some of us don't like that oily machinery smell either.
We think you need some real ferrets, Auntie Ants, to fill the void left by your journey. We have kept mummy very busy taking us all to a ferret show where we had lots of fun and darling Zac won a huge rosette (the judge said Shrimp was 'quite a porker' but auntie Sally gave him a big cuddle to make up for it). We can't wait for your book to be published and to sit in our hammocks and watch the documentary. Licks and wriggles from the garage.

8:14 AM  

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